Film Face-off: 'The Lone Ranger' vs. 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl'

Film Face-off: 'The Lone Ranger' vs. 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl'

Jul 08, 2013

Director Gore Verbinkski and Johnny Depp have now teamed up for the fifth time (the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy and Rango) with The Lone Ranger, which unsurprisingly has a lot in common with Pirates. Technically, both films could survive without Depp's character. With Pirates, a hero tries to save a woman he loves from bad guys. With Lone a hero tries to save a woman from bad guys. But, with both films, it's Depp that we've come to see. I think you know where this is going.

It's time for a Film Face-off with The Lone Ranger vs. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Comparing the setting (Pirates vs. Cowboys) would be apples vs. oranges, so instead I've selected five other categories to battle this one out.

 

Johnny Depp

Pirates of the Caribbean

Captain Jack Sparrow has a drunken swagger about him. The world sees him as nothing more than a pirate scoundrel, and most pirates think of him as a joke. He's out to prove them all wrong, begrudgingly teaming up with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) to take back his cursed ship, the Black Pearl, and save Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). In 2003, Depp was known for his great work in smaller films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, supporting films like Chocolat, and only successful at the box office when teaming up with Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow and 1990's Edward Scissorhands).

The Lone Ranger

Tonto is an old man working at a traveling fair. He tells his life story to a little boy. Clearly, Tonto is a bit crazy. He constantly is referencing or feeding a dead bird that lives atop his head. He's out for revenge from a horrific past event and begrudgingly teams up with John Reid (Armie Hammer) to take down Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). At this stage, Depp does what he wants in Hollywood, which is mainly blockbusters. Everything he has done in the last few years has been familiar. Whether it's working with Verbinski, Burton, playing a version of Hunter S. Thompson (Rum Diary) or even his fantastic cameo in 21 Jump Street.

Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean. There was a surprise factor with Pirates that not many of us saw coming. Pirate movies were a little toxic because of 1995's Cutthroat Island, and this film was based on a theme park ride. The character of Jack Sparrow allowed us to revel in the drunken, lucky fool who is insanely likable, mainly because he's being played by Depp. Tonto is a different sort of bird. He most closely compares to Depp's Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. He's cooky for comedy's sake, but tragically unhinged for drama's sake. He has a fear of cats, so he puts a bird cage on his head. That's one example of the "comedy" you'll get. Also, while I know Depp and company feel very comfortable with their portrayal of Native American Tonto, I never felt that this character elevated any sort of respect for America's tragic past.

 

The Other Hero

Pirates of the Caribbean

Will Turner is a blacksmith, who has turned his back on his pirate father's past for a more proper life. The problem is, Will loves Elizabeth, and unlike the singer Meat Loaf, he will do anything for love, including that. He's suspicious of Jack, but realizes he may be the only chance for saving the day.

The Lone Ranger

John Reid is ready to practice law as the county prosecutor in Colby, Texas. He is proper and has embraced his East Coast education. No matter what the situation, he wants to do what is right in the eyes of the law. He eventually realizes that Tonto may be his only chance for saving the day.

Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean. While I am not a fan of an action scene between two heroes early in a film (because you know it's all for show, with no stakes) at least the sword fight between Jack and Will proves Will's fighting ability. I have no idea how John became good at anything in The Lone Ranger. The film is two-and-a-half-hours long, how can you not toss in a training montage with Tonto giving him some advice? Plus, John doesn't really respect Tonto until the end, so why does he listen to him? If John is as proper as they try to prove, wouldn't he refuse the use of a mask? Also, for a man who doesn't like shooting, he sure does rattle enough bullets off in a crowded train in the final action sequence (which we'll get to later). Hammer's John isn't very fun to watch. He's a smug elitist who doesn't really know what he wants or how to achieve it. The wacky humor that is forced into the friendship of the Lone Ranger and Tonto feels out of place with the otherwise serious tone of the film. That's not the case with Will and Jack's back and forth.

 

The Villain

Pirates of the Caribbean

Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) double-crossed Jack in the past to seize control of the Black Pearl. Now he and his crew are cursed and need every piece of Aztec gold, as well as Will's blood to undo their ghostly lives. Rush hadn't gone full baddy in a blockbuster before (though Mystery Men was close), best known for his work in Shakespeare in LoveLes Misérables (nonmusical), and his Oscar-winning performance in Shine.

The Lone Ranger

Butch Cavendish is a notorious outlaw who John wants to bring to justice (a public hanging), and Tonto wants to kill. Meanwhile, Butch has silver on his mind, and eating human hearts (seriously). Fichtner was fantastic as a villain in the underseen Drive Angry, but this is a different kind of bad guy. There's no subtlety or humor, just evil. He's appeared in blockbusters before, but normally in a smaller supporting role like in The Dark Knight or Armageddon.

Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean. Barbossa has a purpose behind his evil plans. It's not just a pirate's desire for gold that has him going, but lifting a curse that no one would want to be stuck with. Every time Fichtner gets a good role I feel like pointing and saying, "See! He should get more work, this guy is great!" That's not the case with his one-noted Butch. Sure, the scar on his lip is ugly cool, but the constant almost killing/getting away that circles this character isn't compelling.

 

The Damsel

Pirates of the Caribbean

Elizabeth is willing to put herself in harm's way. She's stuck with Norrington (Jack Davenport) wanting to marry her, and isn't aware that Will admires her from afar. Things are made more complicated when she's kidnapped, and Will tries to save her.

The Lone Ranger

Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) is willing to put herself in harm's way. She's married to John's brother (James Badge Dale), and isn't aware that John admires her from afar. Things are made more complicated when she's kidnapped, and John tries to save her.

Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean. Even though those are two almost identical paragraphs, one of these things is not like the other. Knightley shows a spirit in the character of Elizabeth that Wilson isn't able to pull off. While I get that choices of good men were limited in the Old West, marrying a brother, while clearly being drawn to the other isn't the best decision a woman can make. Elizabeth gets in on the action much more than Rebecca, and isn't saddled with a young son who simply takes up screen time.

 

The Ending

Pirates of the Caribbean

After all of the double-crossing, it's a dual between Jack and Barbossa. At first it looks as though Jack will be killed, but it's revealed he had one of those get-out-of-death-free gold medallions. Then, Will comes through in the clutch using his and Jack's blood on the medallions to make Barbossa's body mortal, just long enough to kill him (until the sequels).

The Lone Ranger

After all of the drama, it's time to stop some trains. One carries silver, the other carries people. There is now another villain to take care of besides Butch, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto are taking turns dealing with both (the men and the trains). For added degree of difficulty, Lone Ranger's Silver gallops on top of a moving train.

Winner: The Lone Ranger. Wait, what? This doesn't make sense. Pirates is a better movie through and through, with a pretty good ending. I didn't think Lone had a chance to make up for the first two hours, but then the music hits. Yup, "William Tell Overture" saved the day. Suddenly, the characters were fun (and acting differently then they had in the entire film). There was finally movement and excitement. There were moments that felt like a great Buster Keaton imitation. I fully believe this is all because of the familiar song, which proves to be the greatest chase music of all time.

 

OVERALL WINNER: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl over The Lone Ranger, 4-1.

The Lone Ranger is a mess. It's deadly serious, followed by insanely wacky. I would even rather watch one of the Pirates sequels, and I never thought I would say something like that. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a quality film throughout, and Depp is the best part. We're so desperate to see Captain Jack Sparrow work again, audiences have shelled out money for three more (lesser quality) Pirates movies, and there is talk of a fifth. I don't see that being the case with Tonto and The Lone Ranger. For a while I was truly excited for Verbinski to try and pass Burton on number of times working with Depp (currently 5-8), I am now feeling very ho-hum, Silver, away about the whole thing.

Categories: Features, In Theaters
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